Oregon Militia Promises to Leave at Some Point

For life, liberty, and the delivery of snacks. Photo: Rob Kerr/AFP/Getty Images

The militant ranchers currently occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Burns, Oregon, have survived glitter bombs, vegan jerky, black eyes, stinging betrayals, and erotic fanfiction, but even these hardened rebels are getting tired of living off snacks. The day after they tore down 25 or 30 yards of fence erected by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (using “borrowed” federal equipment), the militiamen have decided to leave their adopted home for the last 11 days. Or, at least, they’ve decided to think about talking about leaving. Robert “LaVoy” Finicum, a militia member, told The Oregonian today that the militiamen will hold a meeting at 7 p.m. on Friday to discuss an exit plan. 

Although the location for the meeting is yet to be determined, Finicum says anyone is welcome to attend. He did confirm that Ammon Bundy, the militia’s leader, will be at the meeting, and that it will take place somewhere in Burns. 

Perhaps the ranchers are aware they’ve worn out their welcome. At a town-hall meeting Monday night, Harney County sheriff Dave Ward told the militants their stay was limited. “There’s an hourglass, and it’s running out,” he told the New York Daily News. “Go home.” Steve Grasty, a Harney County judge, also had harsh words for Bundy’s crowd, saying he was prepared to bill them for their stay: “I’m going to send Mr. Bundy a fine when we’re done,” he said. “It seems fair to me if you’re going to put that cost on this little tiny community. Will he pay it? No.”

Higher powers, a.k.a. the Fish and Wildlife Service, have also warned the militiamen that they might face consequences for their behavior. “Removing fences, damaging any refuge property, or unauthorized use of equipment would be additional unlawful actions by the illegal occupiers,” the organization said in a statement. “Any movement of cattle onto the refuge or other activities that are not specifically authorized by the Fish and Wildlife Service constitutes trespassing.” 

Bundy and his self-proclaimed “Citizens for Constitutional Freedom” have previously said they’d leave the refuge when the federal government transfers the refuge’s land back to private owners and ranchers, and when Dwight Hammond and his son Steven Hammond are exonerated from federal arson charges, but so far the government seems prepared to call their bluff.